Christians aren’t supposed to have emotional problems. But we do. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are just as fallen as other people, though forgiveness (Psalm 103:12) does makes all the difference. Even so, reconciliation with God the Father does not eliminate the suffering which marks this side of eternity. Pretending otherwise is a foolishness in which those of us who struggle with social isolation cannot allow ourselves to indulge.
It may be that we who take on the name of Christ have more issues than other people. As Jesus said,
They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Mark 2:17)
St. Paul confirms it:
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)
Don’t hide your weaknesses.
There’s an arrogance which seeks to pretend things are just fine when they are far from okay. Christians learn early on to put on a good face. But a good face is a put-on. It’s a mask. Fake. Shallow. Brittle. A church of masks is a cold, lifeless hall. We struggling sheep shake hands and pat each other on the back as we shuffle out the door.
What it feels like
You can find all kinds of discussions of social isolation on the web such as this, this, or even this. Definitions vary. There are levels of isolation from mild to severe. But a common theme exists. One day you realize you’re mostly alone. Whether by choice or circumstance, your days are spent apart from human communion. You may exchange words with the cashier at the grocery store checkout or wave as you pass a neighbor on the street. But weeks can pass without your having shared a true thought, concern, or hope with another living soul.
The easy psychologizing of the last century has left many of us with an automatic tendency to dig for the underlying reasons for things. I’m not sure this is helpful. Perhaps your social isolation developed or worsened when…
- Your church changed, leaving you behind
- You retired
- Your spouse died
No matter the why, you became a one, apart.
The what is key. If the things you’re reading in this post feel familiar in some way, it’s time to decide to pay attention to this aspect of your life. God does not intend for you to be socially isolated. And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone. (Genesis 2:18a) Though the Lord spoke this about Adam, he meant it for every single one of us. Including you.
Social media seduction
Seducers make false promises to advance their own causes. Social media and the internet pretend to be a godsend for the socially isolated. But that’s not how they work.
Because online technologically mediated interactions are easier for socially isolated people to manage, such ones gravitate towards them. Over time telephone calls and face-to-face communications fall away, and only Facebook remains.
We were created with physical bodies. God’s intention is for people to be in proximity to one another when they talk, disagree, and reconcile. Any other kind of communication is an inferior substitute. Feed on unhealthy food long enough and you will become sick.
There are thousands of years of recorded history and experience showing the nature and importance of relationship. Social media is less than 20 years old, yet it has reshaped pattern, rhythm, and structure. It’s becoming the normal means of communication. And social isolation is growing.
In a world different than this one, help for Christians with social isolation would come through pastor and church community. Yet true friendships at church are not easy to develop. No one has a clue of the trouble, emotional pain or loneliness carried by the person in the next pew.
If you knew of his suffering, what could you do to open your outside-of-church-life to your brother?
Quite often a the pastor sets an example of openness and hospitality. But churches have their own cultures. And there is only so much pastors can do to change them.
It’s up to us to figure out how to break through the walls that separate us as Christians one from another.
Pray for each other
Please pray for me. If you wish, I will pray for you, too.
If you attend a church but have no genuine relationships with the people there, challenge yourself to do something about it.
Take the risk of saying something real to one person next Sunday. Start with the pastor if you must.
Let me know how it goes.
If you are socially isolated, please make a decision to do everything you can to change your situation. Don’t worry if you don’t know what to do about it. The most important thing you can do is to ask God for help. He cares for you.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and does not find fault; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5)
God bless you, and keep you, and make his face to shine upon you, and give you rest. Amen.
Note to subscribers
I will be leaving WordPress shortly. If you subscribe to the blog through WordPress, please right now change your subscription here. This will ensure you will continue to be notified of new posts. The RSS feed should remain valid through the transition.